Russia’s orphans have the right to receive housing from the state when they reach adulthood. In practice, waiting lists in some regions of the country are so long that they postpone the satisfaction of having a flat for several years. OC Media investigated how providing housing to orphans works in Daghestan.
Twenty-year-old orphan Abdul (not his real name) turned 18 in an orphanage in the Daghestani city of Kaspiysk two years ago. Since then, he has had nowhere to go and has had to remain in the orphanage. Abdul has been waiting in line to receive housing since 2014. He told OC Media that he’s currently 72nd in the queue.
‘I’m not the only one who hasn’t been given a flat. Some stay in the orphanage, some go and live in their university’s dormitory, while some find work and are able to pay for their own flat. Recently, I was wondering about my place in the queue, and I found out that I was 72nd. That means that in the best case I’ll get a flat in four or five years’, Abdul said.
‘No point’ seeking help in the courts
According to Daghestan’s Ministry of Education, in 2016, 306 Daghestani orphans were given housing. This year, the ministry says it is planning to give housing to 322 orphans. The ministry told OC Media that ₽265 million ($4.6 million) was allocated for this: ₽150 million ($2.6 million) from the local budget and ₽115 million ($2 million) from federal funds.
Ideally, an orphan should be provided with a living space upon reaching adulthood (18 years old) or finishing military service. In practice, however, there is a waiting list that can delay the process for several years. According to Abdul, there is no point in seeking help in the courts.
‘My friend, also an orphan, went to the court to get a flat quicker, but the judge refused his request. The court said “Don’t skip the queue”. It turns out that trying to get a flat through the court is skipping the queue. I concluded that if I wanted to sue, they’d tell me the same’, Abdul said.
The head of Daghestan’s Department of Guardianship and Trusteeship, Dzhamal Atayev, told OC Media that the reason for the queue is a lack of funds.
‘The number of citizens we need to provide housing for is higher than what we can afford. This is how the queue comes about’, Atayev said.
Non orphans are being given the flats
According to Raisat Osmanova, head of the Daghestan Without Orphans organisation, the list of applicants for flats is growing artificially, and it is not uncommon for people who aren’t really orphans to receive flats.
‘Not everyone who spends time in orphanages should receive housing. Children from orphanages who have a parent with parental responsibility don’t have the right to free housing. Once, a young man came to me and complained that he had a court decision to receive a flat, yet he didn’t receive one. His mother had died, his father was alive, and he grew up in a boarding school, with his father paying him visits. According to the law, he doesn’t have the right to social housing as an orphan, yet he still wants to receive it’, Osmanova told OC Media.
Several years ago, activist Leyla Gamzatova took custody of a girl from an orphanage. This year, the girl, Marina, turned 14. Even though the girl now lives in the family, the state is still obliged to provide her with housing. According to Gamzatova, finding suitable houses is part of the problem in Daghestan.
‘In Kapsiysk, for instance, one-room flats are tiny. In old Stalin-era houses in the centre of the city they are 30 square metres. According to law, children from orphanages shouldn’t be given flats smaller than 33 square metres. It’s a Russian standard. Even if the flat is half a square metre too small, the guardianship authorities are forced to refuse it. Otherwise, the prosecutor’s office can punish them for it’, Gamzatova told OC Media.
According to Federal Law, the accommodation provided should be well-arranged in relation to the condition of the city or village where it is located. The flat or house should have electricity, running water, a sewage system, heating, a bath or shower, a gas or electric stove, and hot water or gas water heater. All of the above should be in working order.
The law was amended in 2013. Previously, an orphan had the right to social housing only before turning 23. Now there are no age restrictions. If the authorities deny an application for housing, they should give an official refusal letter, which can then be used to contact the prosecutor for further investigation.